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Bargains galore for cruise trippers in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Cruise vacation packages are on average priced lower by 30 per cent this year compared to last year, say travel agents.

Passengers at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in 2014. TODAY file photo

Passengers at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in 2014. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Cruise vacation packages are on average priced lower by 30 per cent this year compared to last year, say travel agents. Holiday makers looking to take advantage of travel deals offered by cruise companies have a wide range of packages to choose from, with attractive offers from basic economy to premium luxury classes.

As more cruise liners use Singapore as their port of call, and cruise companies add larger new ships to their fleets, passenger capacity has almost doubled over the past few years, said holiday operators that TODAY spoke to.

Short-haul trips, including 2-days, 1 night all-in vacations to near-by islands, start at S$250 per person, excluding taxes & surcharges. Such low-cost packages are increasingly popular among locals, who are looking for quick, fuss-free weekend get-aways, said Ms Jane Chang, head of marketing communications at Chan Brothers Travel.

The range of offerings from cruise liners for such trips has increased, and the tour operator has seen cruise package sales surge by some 30 per cent over the past year, said Ms Chang.

“Prices have become more competitive. Rates are lower this year by about 10 to 30 per cent, with bigger discounts offered in the premium category,” said Ms Alicia Seah, director of marketing and communications at Dynasty Travel.

Growth in the cruise sector was attributed to greater passenger capacity and more attractive discounts with cruise liners offering more early-bird bonuses to ramp up bookings, said Ms Seah.

Dynasty has seen a 25 per cent year-on-year jump in their cruise holiday business.

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean has 72 sailings lined up for its 2017/2018 season, up from 64 sailings in its previous season, as demand for cruises departing from Singapore has increased, according to the company.

“We expect to see an increase of 40 per cent in bookings for our Singapore sailings this year. One reason is we are offering more sailings and on larger ships in Singapore this year such as the Ovation of the Seas which has a 4,905-guest capacity and is deployed here for the first time with 10 sailings,” said Royal Caribbean’s managing director for Asia Pacific, Mr Sean Treacy.

Bargain hunters in the travel market typically seek out cruise packages which include accommodation, meals, entertainment and social activities, he noted.

The company’s off-peak fare for its 3-night cruise to Penang starts at S$319, which is around 10 per cent lower than last year, said Mr Treacy.

Ms Archana Pani, mother of a 7-year-old, agrees that cruise holidays are ideal for a fuss-free family holiday. The homemaker is planning to take her family for their first cruise holiday at the end of this year. “There are so many attractive options to choose from, we want to take advantage of the early-bird discounts and are looking at covering at least two or three regional islands in one holiday,” said Ms Pani.

For the young – and young at heart

The growth in regional demand for novel vacation packages has also been fuelled by the increased spending power of millennials, and the younger generation seeking new adventures, said holiday agents.

Cruise liners are starting to revamp their offerings to target the younger crowd, with social activities like surfing machines and rock-climbing walls becoming more common, said Dynasty Travel’s Ms Seah.

Royal Caribbean has upped its game by revamping its ships with hi-tech add-ons, including virtual balconies – floor-to-ceiling screens that offer real-time views and sounds of the ocean – within some of it staterooms. Bionic bars, which are serviced by robot bartenders, are also featured in some of its cruises, according to the company.

“It is a stereotypical mindset that cruises are mainly popular among the older folk. We are seeing a paradigm shift in travel with holiday-makers (of all ages) starting to appreciate relaxing vacations for recharge and rejuvenation instead of packing their holidays with endless activities and sightseeing,” said Ms Chang from Chan Brothers Travel.

Asian cruise liner Dream Cruises which debuted in the market last November plans to offer a slew of regional cruises to tap into the growing demand for luxury holidays on the sea. Special add-ons like midnight buffets, free wifi, complimentary tours at ports of call, and free transfers between airport and pier, are some of the benefits thrown in.

Tour operator The Travel Corporation even offers social experiences, such as the opportunity to meet locals, discover restaurants and popular bars, and embark on independent and adventure excursions, said a company spokesperson.

The travel and leisure sector has also received a boost from travellers from neighbouring Asian countries, as fly-cruise options are expanded.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board, Singapore cruise passenger throughput grew 16 per cent to about 1.2 million in 2016. The Republic is strengthening its position as a cruise hub in South-east Asia that boasts more than 25,000 outlying islands, buoyed by arrivals from source markets like India, Australia and Indonesia.

“We expect our Singapore sailings to continue to do well into the next year, driven by the growing attraction for cruising in the market,” said Royal Caribbean’s Mr Treacy.

Rising affluence in Asian countries has sparked an increase in consumer interest in recent years, he noted.

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